June 21, 2013

2013 Kennebec Journal File Photo/Andy Molloy

Gov. LePage’s inappropriate comments Thursday came at a tea party rally where he was obviously trying to stoke resentment between Democrats and Republicans.

Our View: LePage crosses a line with vulgar comment

It's almost not news anymore when Gov. LePage insults the people of his state and embarrasses them before the rest of the nation. But remarks he made after a tea party rally Thursday were a new low.

The governor attacked Democratic state Sen. Troy Jackson, mocking his motives, livelihood and intelligence. ("People like Troy Jackson, they ought to go back into the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some good work.")

Then he made a crude sexual reference that would have been inappropriate in any classroom or workplace.

The governor's loyal supporters -- and there are a lot of them -- will rush to his defense, saying that he is a blunt, plainspoken man who has taken plenty of lumps in the increasingly rough game of politics in Maine. But this time, that's not enough to excuse his behavior.

LePage is a governor -- one of only 50 in the United States -- and he represents the whole state every time he speaks. All 1.3 million of us have a right to expect him to take that responsibility seriously and not behave as if he were hanging out in a bar with his buddies when he stands in front of a microphone and camera.

And if Maine politics has gotten rough lately, no one is more responsible than the governor, whose loose tongue and power plays have changed the way things get done in Augusta. Thursday's outrageous comments came at a campaign-style rally in which he was advocating for a vote against the bipartisan budget, knowing that would almost certainly shut down the government he is supposed to lead.

LePage may not have scripted every word of his attacks, but his intent was clear. He was trying to stoke resentment between Democrats and Republicans, upset a carefully crafted budget deal and try to peel off enough Republican votes to wreck it.

This divide-and-conquer style of politics is the hallmark of the LePage era, and legislative Republicans' willingness to play along, even after it cost them their majorities in the House and Senate in the last election, remains a mystery.

This time at least, they should see that he has gone too far and that it would tarnish all of their reputations if Republican legislators were to follow his leadership into a shutdown.

Given their reputations for civility, maybe party leaders like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, who are scheduled to attend a fundraiser for the governor, will also think twice about associating with him.

LePage may not be talking to this newspaper these days, but he should be talking to the people of Maine, and when he does he should give them the apology they deserve.

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